Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
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NEW ORLEANS -- Cash registers are ringing up holiday sales across the city, but not so much on Royal Street in the French Quarter.

Sections of the street are blocked off for a second time in as many months as crews dig up the sidewalks.

'It's complete mayhem,' said gallery owner Gary Tanner. 'It's the exact opposite mood you'd want to create for Christmas shoppers.'

Tanner also said with construction crews out front, shoppers are bypassing this stretch of Royal.

'Our business has not been slowed down, it's completely screeched to a halt.'

Merchants say they received a notice just one day before the work started.

According to the notice, the sidewalks were not removed in October when the French Quarter streets were blacktopped because the underground electrical lines were too close to the existing walkway.

Special crews are now locating the conduit and removing the concrete around it by hand.

Shop owner Bambi Deville Engeran questions the timing of the work.

'Why are they not doing this at times when they know it's slower in the city?' she said. 'Whose idea was it to do it now? That's what we want to know. Who made this decision to come right before Christmas?'

With the sidewalks all torn up, shoppers now have to cross a narrow wooden board to get in and out of shops and galleries on Royal Street. Shop owners are afraid somebody is going to get hurt.

'The customers will not be able to walk in because, you see, it's very dangerous,' said Royal Street merchant Marina Vasquez.

Visitors admit they avoided shops where the sidewalks were under construction.

'The sidewalks are always torn up in New Orleans,' said visitor Ann Quarles. 'We're from Shreveport so we come a lot, but this is really incredible for them. Some of them you can't even get to.'

The firm managing the paths to progress work in the French Quarter released a statement about the Royal Street construction.

'The overall project is scheduled to be completed within the next month. Although construction can be inconvenient, the long-term improvements in the French Quarter will be immeasurable.'

Merchants hope the work is done sooner than later.

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